Masters Programs

MA programs are those taken in all fields of human geography. MSc programs are those taken in physical geography, spatial information systems and some areas of environmental studies.

All MA students must complete the Human Geography Core Course (GGR1105H) and all MSc students must complete the Physical Geography Core Course (GGR1200H). Students have the option of completing a master’s thesis or a major research paper (MRP).

Progress into the second session is dependent on achieving an overall B average in the first session and maintaining satisfactory progress as outlined in the SGS Calendar General Regulations. The department may recommend termination of a student’s registration if they have failed to maintain satisfactory progress.

Timeline to Completion

Master’s degree programs usually take one to two calendar years to complete; the average time to completion is 1.7 years. The maximum time limit is three years.

All coursework should be completed within 8 months of initial registration. Time taken to complete the research and writing of the thesis or MRP varies depending on numerous factors, including whether the research requires ethics approval, conducting interviews or gaining permission to access archival materials, and whether the research involves extensive fieldwork or lengthy experiments. The timeline below is a guide for completing within the 1 year that the program is funded. Students can register in a second year as necessary to continue research and writing activities.

Suggested Timeline

Year 1 (September-April): Coursework
Year 1 (September – May): Submit a research proposal to supervisor (no later than March 1); Ethics approval should be obtained if necessary; Research
Year 1 (May-August): Writing
Year 1 (August-early September): Defense and final submission of thesis. Deadline for completion to avoid registration for the subsequent year is normally the second week of September

Thesis Option

The thesis option is recommended for students who have a strong background in geography and who want to complete a significant research initiative. Students choosing this option should have a clear idea of the topic they would like to research. A thesis is encouraged for students who are planning on pursuing a PhD or jobs that require significant research experience.

Students enrolled in a Master’s Thesis Option are required to complete the requirements below.

Coursework: Completion of 3 half-credit courses (or 1.5 FCEs), including:
• the core course (GGR1105H for MA and GGR1200H for MSc)
• one half-credit course in geography or from an approved list
• one half-credit course in any subject
• students enrolled in a collaborative specialization should the Collaborative Specializations page for any additional requirements

Research Proposal: Submission of a research proposal to their supervisor by March 1 of their first year. The proposal should be 2500 to 4000 words and include the following:
• Outline of the topic/research question
• Literature review
• Methodology
• Timeline for completion of research/data collection, writing and final defense of the thesis or major research paper

Annual Report: Students who register in a second year and beyond are required to meet with their supervisor by the end of September to review their activities over the summer and set out a timeline for the year. A report form must be completed at this meeting and submitted to the graduate office.

Thesis:

Students are required to complete a thesis (RST9999Y) which must be presented and defended at an oral examination. The thesis is generally not more than 26,000 words (typically up to 80 pages double-spaced), not including appendices and bibliography.

The thesis project will address a research question or set of questions. It involves the analysis and interpretation of data and outputs would include the thesis, but could also involve videos, policy reports and other forms of dissemination. A thesis may involve the use of data collected by the student or supervisor, including for example, interviews, ethnographic observations or survey data. Students may also be involved in the analysis of other forms of data, such as census data, archival materials, popular media reports, images or policy documents. The thesis should include an introduction, a statement of research question(s) or problem, a literature review, a methodology section, and discussion of findings. The thesis should be seen as the basis of one or more publishable papers.

For MSc students, a thesis involves the collection or use, analysis and interpretation of data or theoretical research. The format of the thesis is to be determined in consultation between the student and supervisor. The MSc thesis must include a literature review followed by sections with an introduction, methodology, results, discussion and conclusion. Results and discussion sections may be merged where appropriate. The completed thesis should be seen as the basis of at least one publishable paper. Where a student and supervisor determine that more than one publishable paper could emerge from the MSc research, individual chapters with separate introduction, methodology, results/discussion and conclusion sections could be used.

Co-authorship: Multiple authorship scientific publications are common. The master’s student is expected to have led the research, to have been the primary person to interpret data and to have written the thesis. For most scientific authorship conventions, the master’s research should constitute the basis of a scholarly publication where the student would be considered the first author. A statement of scholarly attribution should be provided in the thesis, outlining the student’s (and the supervisor’s and any current or eventual co-author’s) contributions in conceiving, planning and carrying out the research, as well as interpreting the data and writing up the research. Refer to the discussion of intellectual property.

Evaluation: The thesis will be defended at an oral exam attended by the supervisor(s) and two additional faculty members, one of which must be from geography. The thesis must be provided to all committee members and the graduate office a minimum of 2 weeks prior to the exam (or earlier, up to 4 weeks prior, at the discretion of the exam committee). If the thesis is not received the graduate office will cancel the exam. The graduate office will prepare the examination file that can be collected by the supervisor just before the exam to be returned immediately following the exam.

The defense will be two hours in length. The student may give a short presentation of about 15 minutes summarizing the major contributions of the thesis. This presentation will be followed by questions from the committee members. At the end of the defense, the student will leave the room while the committee reaches a decision. The committee will recommend (or not) that the thesis be accepted and may require revisions prior to submission to the department and the School of Graduate Studies.

Submission: Once any final revisions or modifications have been made and confirmed in writing by the supervisor(s), the final thesis must be submitted electronically to SGS and to the department. Refer to the SGS guidelines for information on formatting, electronic submission and copyright.

Major Research Paper Option

The major research paper (MRP) is recommended for students who would like to place more emphasis on coursework, for example, in the case of students who have not taken many courses in geography at the undergraduate level. An MRP may be an option for students who plan to work professionally in their field rather than pursue a PhD.

Students enrolled in a Master’s MRP Option are required to complete the requirements below.

Coursework: Completion of 6 half-credit courses (or 3.0 FCEs), including:
• the core course (GGR1105H for MA and GGR1200H for MSc)
• three half-credit courses in geography or from an approved list
• one half-credit course which must be taken outside the department
• one half-credit course in any subject
• students enrolled in a collaborative specialization should consult section 5 for any additional requirements

Research Proposal: Submission of a research proposal to their supervisor by March 1 of their first year. The proposal should be 2500 to 4000 words and include the following:
• Outline of the topic/research question
• Literature review
• Methodology
• Timeline for completion of research/data collection, writing and presentation of MRP to the supervisor and second reader

Annual Report: Students who register in a second year and beyond are required to meet with their supervisor by the end of September to review their activities over the summer and set out a timeline for the year. A report form must be completed at this meeting and submitted to the graduate office.

Major Research Paper: Students are required to complete a major research paper (GGR1100Y) which must be presented to their supervisor(s) and a second reader who is a faculty member from geography. The MRP would normally not exceed 13,000 words (typically up to 40 pages double-spaced), not including appendices and bibliography.

The MRP will address a research question or set of questions and can take different forms, including:
• A literature review that offers summary, synthesis and critique and draws conclusions without the collection and use of primary data;
• A small scale or exploratory study that is similar to the thesis, except that it is smaller in scope. As with a thesis, this could involve use of data collected by the student or supervisor (such as interview or ethnographic data). Students may also be involved in the analysis of other forms of data, such as census data, archival materials, popular media reports, images or policy documents. The project will involve the analysis and interpretation of data and outputs would include the major research paper, but in addition could include videos, policy reports and other forms of dissemination.

MSc students do not commonly do the MRP option; the majority of students complete a thesis. If a student wanted to pursue the MRP option the structure would be similar to the MA, but students are expected to establish expectations and work out the format with their supervisor.

Co-authorship: Multiple authorship scientific publications are common. The master’s student is expected to have led the research, to have been the primary person to interpret data and to have written the thesis. For most scientific authorship conventions, the master’s research should constitute the basis of a scholarly publication where the student would be considered the first author. A statement of scholarly attribution should be provided in the thesis, outlining the student’s (and the supervisor’s and any current or eventual co-author’s) contributions in conceiving, planning and carrying out the research, as well as interpreting the data and writing up the research. Refer to the discussion of intellectual property.

Evaluation: The MRP will be read by the supervisor(s) and a second reader who is a faculty member from geography. The MRP must be provided to the supervisor(s) and second reader a minimum of 2 weeks prior to a scheduled meeting (or earlier, up to 4 weeks prior, at the discretion of the readers). If the MRP is not received, the graduate office will cancel the meeting. The graduate office will prepare a meeting file which can be collected by the supervisor just before the meeting and returned immediately following the meeting. At the meeting of the supervisor(s), second reader and student, the student will be given the opportunity to present the work (15 minutes maximum) and to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the draft paper. The total meeting time will be up to one hour. The supervisor(s) and second reader will then jointly identify any revisions required.

Submission: Once any final revisions or modifications have been made and confirmed in writing by the supervisor(s), an electronic copy of the final research paper must be submitted to the department. Students should follow the same SGS guidelines on formatting and copyright for the thesis.